I believe that an effective digital presence is crucial for any brand to truly succeed in today's digital world and South Africa is no exception. You need to understand the dynamic and evolving digital marketing practices in a South African context.
Digital marketing revolves around the end-user, people who browse the Internet. This means that digital marketing is focused on the user-experience of the consumers who browse the Internet.
Digital marketing is composed of various specialised disciplines: Search Engine Marketing, Display Marketing, Web Development, Mobile Marketing, and Social Media Marketing.
The current South African digital landscape
Fourteen million South African's or more than 30% of South Africa's population* is now connected to the Internet. This accounts for 39% of South African adults*. A fascinating truth is that using the Internet is more popular than reading newspapers in South Africa, because 17% of South Africans read a newspaper daily while 22% use the Internet daily**.
Search Engine Marketing consists of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO and Paid Search.
In reality SEO refers to the new and popular "Google" verb, namely, to "Google" something or someone on the Internet. It is therefore important to have a noteworthy presence in this digital space. Most browsers do not type in a website's address or URL but instead they Google it. What is the point of having a brilliant website if no one can find it?
There are two types of possible entries on a Search Result Pages (SERP). There are the paid for adverts (Adwords) in beige "boxes" at the top, and as a vertical list on the right side of the page. These ads can also include images now.
The entries with a white background, in the middle of the page and below the beige "box" are known as "organic" search results. Organic/Natural Search Results are largely seen as more credible than paid search adverts by browsers. The general digital marketing industry consensus is that these organic search results are far more credible than paid for ads, because they are generally perceived as more relevant and are not seen as manipulating the search results.
A digital agency should focus most of their efforts on the Google Search Engine, because, in short, Google.co.za is the most visited website in South Africa***. Therefore the vast majority of all Internet or online searches in South Africa are done through Google.co.za. SEO is critical for your website to be accessed by more of your target market because most Internet browsers only look at the first few search results on the first page. Google search is the primary entryway to the Internet for consumers, so it makes sense that your brand is very visible in this digital landscape. That is why SEO is crucial for your brand's long-term online visibility or presence.
While SEO focuses on the long-term visibility of a website in search results, Google's Adwords ads are ideal for short-term campaigns. Adwords ads can, however complement your long-term online search visibility efforts as well. The most prominent form of Paid Search Marketing is Adwords. By using Adwords to promote your website you will widen your figurative "net" for you to gain prospective customers via the Internet. A well-executed Adwords campaign can be quickly tailored to meet the exact and changing requirements of the above-the-line campaign you are running for your brand. Through Google's peerless grasp on the demographics of Internet users, you can target the consumers who would be interested in your brand.
Pictures can say a thousand words
Display or banner advertising is the oldest form of digital advertising in South Africa. Display advertising has progressed like every other digital marketing discipline. Google's Display Network is the largest 'broker' or network for placing display adverts on third party websites. Your Google Display Network ads can be videos, interactive, text, or images.
Like Adwords, you can also target consumers who would most likely be interested in your brand. Many in the digital marketing industry believe that display ads are very useful for generating online brand awareness.
Do people really like your brand's website?
No matter how successful your brand is your website should be user-friendly. Browsers of your website must find it an enjoyable experience. This user-friendly or usability factor coincides with your website's need to also be Google-friendly. Google wishes to provide browsers with the best possible user-experience through their search result pages.
Lastly, your website should be mobile-device-friendly as well. This is because the majority of consumers access websites via their mobile phones or mobile devices as well as on their PCs. Some consumers access websites only via their mobile phones. I suggest that your brand should have a website with a responsive design. This means it is a desktop website that simply adjusts its appearance for compatibility on mobile devices. A responsive website negates the need for a mobile or mobi site, thereby halving the site maintenance.
South African's are using their mobile phones and mobile devices to connect to the Internet like never before. Twenty percent of all South African Internet users connect to the Internet via their mobile phones only***. You can target consumers with Google Adwords ads or Display Network ads on their mobile devices, while they browse the Internet. Harnessing this mobile platform has become an integral component of today's digital marketing.
Digital Applications or Apps for mobile devices are an important mobile digital marketing tool. Engaging consumers on their mobile devices has never been more important. An exciting mobile development is augmented reality, which is applied through 'AR' Apps.
Sharing your social life
Social Media is part of the very fabric of modern living; this includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Mxit, Google+, Pinterest, blogs and many more social media platforms.
Whether you use Social Media Marketing for online brand awareness, reputation management, advertising campaigns for launching products or all of the above; there is a great opportunity for your brand to benefit from Social Media Marketing. Facebook, for example is a brilliant digital 'demand generator' via word-of-mouth. Many people view Facebook as a digital PR medium only; but Facebook users tolerate adverts because they browse Facebook to be distracted; as a form of escapism. Social media metrics should be focused around relevant interactions with your brand to achieve your goals.
Digital marketing is evolving at a rapid rate. The above digital disciplines are the major components that make up contemporary digital marketing. Your brand should strive to be at the forefront of this exciting digital world.Statistics courtesy of:
*University of Witwatersrand, Echo and Word Wide Worx.
**University of Witwatersrand.